Continuous Improvement

What is Organizational Culture?

by Joe Aherne

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Organizational Culture is the sum of the systems, processes, values, beliefs and behavior of the organization. In short, it is the way things are done in the organization and the way its employees behave. The culture of an organization is also its DNA, an element complex enough to both control and define the organization’s identity. Organizational culture can be likened to an iceberg as it has both observable and invisible elements as explained below.

Observable Elements

  1. These are the things that you get to know about an organization through observation such as signs, symbols and dress code
  2. These are things you can read or hear about an organization such as its mission, vision, core values, quality, philosophies and standard operating procedures.

Invisible Element

Though usually taken for granted, this is the foundation and shaping force of the organization, things that you can’t see but can experience e.g.  Leadership styles, employee engagement, work environment and relationships with customers

To develop a positive culture an organization has to do the following;

  • Be flexible
  • listen to the voice of its customers, both internal and external
  • promote open communication
  • promote synergy between teams to build strong teams and networks
  • Trust, respect and empower its employees
  • Embrace change
  • Treat failure as a learning opportunity

To sustain the positive culture an organization has to define its values. This brings clarity, thus making the decision-making process easy. After defining its values an organization has to hire based on its value which means hiring based on culture fit first followed by skill fit. Finally, the organization has to ‘live its values’, which means nurturing its high-level performers who are compliant with their values, coaching low level performers who are values compliant and pruning both  low level and high-level performers who are not compliant with the organization’s value system.

One of the determining factors of a strong and positive culture is how employees relate to each other and how each employee is aligned to the organization’s values. To ensure that employees can both relate to each other and be aligned to the organization’s values they have to learn the culture. The organization can facilitate this through coaching sessions, designing rituals, storytelling and eliminating language barriers through training and translation. A strong culture starts with a competent employee as the strength of the employee is in the organization’s culture and the organization’s strength is in the employee.

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Joe Aherne Photo
Joe Aherne

CEO of Leading Edge Group

Joe qualified as a Certified Public Accountant in 1982. It was a decision that reaped great benefits for Joe, providing him with an international recognized qualification which allowed him to follow in his father and grandfathers’ footsteps who had both worked and lived abroad. Having qualified as a CPA, Joe took up financial positions in the Middle East and UK.

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